Driver AI’s Alex Nesich on using technology to dominate the scooter market • TechCrunch


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As a common micro mobility It continues to dominate cities, with operators themselves implementing “advanced rider assistance systems” or scooter ARAS on various types of scooters that can detect riders doing what cities hate the most – riding on sidewalks.

Drover AI, which is slated to launch in May 2020, is one of the companies that started this trend. The startup builds computer vision IoT modules mounted on scooters such as Spin, Voy and Beam. The modules are built around cameras that use machine learning to detect things like sidewalks, bike lanes, and pedestrians, then feed that information back to the scooter’s brain to send alerts to passengers or, in some cases, slow down.

Drover AI co-founder and CEO Alex Nesich hasn’t always been passionate about AI or computer vision. In fact, Nesic has spent the better part of his career as an actor, appearing on TV shows like “Sleeper Cell” and “CCI” (Miami and New York!). But Nesic enjoyed chemistry in high school and was good at turning tech talk into practical market language, so he jumped at the chance to join a high school friend’s work on nanotechnology and surface modification chemistry.

After working his way up the ladder until he reached a VP role, Nesic was drawn into the mobility sphere by a company called eMotor, which he probably started five years early to succeed. Emotor has built a three-wheel mobility scooter with replaceable batteries and connects to an app via Bluetooth.

“It’s very reassuring that even operators and manufacturers are trying to replicate our approach.” Alex Nesic, Drover AI CEO

“The batteries are TSA-compliant, so I travel with it, and I put it in the overhead bin and that was my introduction to moving around cities with micromobility,” Nesic said.

This was around the time Bird was starting to launch shared scooters, so the market wasn’t quite ready for a $1,500 consumer-facing scooter that was being relegated to the hoverboard category rather than a useful transportation tool.

So Nesic pivoted and founded Clever Mobility, a shared e-scooter operator that provided a turnkey turnkey solution for cities and other private operators. Nesic says Clever is one of the first companies to start the conversation around identifying sidewalks and geofencing, but it’s trying to achieve sub-meter accuracy by relying on GPS. Failure to do so led Nessic to denounce the shortcomings of GPS, using computer vision instead to develop Drover AI to address the need for spatial awareness.

We sat down with Nesic about integrating computer vision technology into self-owned scooters, discussed what it means when a big company steals your idea, and why tech seeds are overpowered when running a startup.

Editor’s Note: The following interview, part of an ongoing series with founders who are building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: You closed a $5.4 million Series A in July, and at the time said the money would go toward your next-generation product, but also to explore other partnerships with automakers.

Alex Nesich: The end game for me is to try to help inform the regulatory environment because it is unreasonable to expect that there will be two separate regulations for joint operators and private scooter owners. Operators are restricted and have all these hooks to jump, but anyone can buy something on Amazon that doesn’t offer any security features.


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